The Line Blurs

Where does one’s online life end and one’s real life begin? Tufecki as cited in Ingram(2011) says ‘our online lives are becoming inextricably linked with our offline one.’ My Second Life (SL) experience was transformational. It exposed me to an environment that tested my skills of movement and navigation. It changed my perception of 3D worlds from a hangout for the socially challenged to a stimulating environment full of educational potential. It exposed me to concepts of new and novel ways to engage learners. Multi-tasking was taken to a new level. It was difficult to manipulate controls, converse and document evidence of learning by taking snapshots. However, it was a fun way to engage with fellow students. Insights were gained by how people designed their avatars and how they interacted with the environment.

3D Virtual worlds facilitate remote learning, immersive learning and P2P learning (KZero Worldwide, 2010). INF506 presentation of projects event is an example of remote and P2P learning. Students living in different time zones shared their project findings and learned from each other in the process.

Barid (2011) states that there are  over 300 virtual worlds for children. He also states that in the U.S., the virtual world and massively multiplayer online (MMO) space increased more than 50% in 2010 compared to that of 15% for 2009. However, even more interesting is the fact that educational destinations hold less than 6% space for all ages. The rise in virtual world users and the lack of space for educational destinations is significant. There is a lack of empirical data on the educational or cognitive effects of virtual worlds (Herold, 2010). This needs to increase for educators to be convinced of its benefits. Careful evaluation and a blended learning approach is advocated by Herold.

Brooks-Young (2010) advises teachers to check the school’s acceptable use policy and think carefully about the purpose when choosing the appropriate 3D environment. The available equipment needs to be powerful (suitable bandwidth)  and up-to-date. Most importantly  parents need to be informed of its educational value.  Time is  also required to learn basics. Girvan and Savage’s (2010) study using social constructivist pedagogies in SL shows evidence of learning. The  group task was to build a book to share learning on a specific topic. Subsequent groups built on this learning artefact. This is an excellent way to utilise SL in an educational context, using social learning theory.

The number of universities and schools with a SL presence is rising. Libraries can host information here too. It facilitate collaborative resource building by changing settings in designated areas. Building involves critical thinking, a key 21st century skill.

 The online and real life lines may blur as long as learning remains central.

Barid, D. (2011, July). 360blog Children’s Virtual Worlds Sliced and Diced [Web blog]. Retrieved from http://www.360kid.com/blog/2011/07/vws-sliced-and-diced/

Brooks‐Young, S. (2010). Teaching with the tools kids really use: Learning with Web and mobile technologies. Thousand Oaks, Calif. :Corwin.

Girvan, C. & Savage, T. (2010).Identifying an appropriate pedagogy for virtual worlds: A communal constructivism case study.Computers & Education, 55,  342-249

Herold, D. K. (2010). Mediating media studies – Stimulating critical awareness in a virtual environment. Computers & Education, 54,  791-798.

Ingram, M. (2011, September 11). Memo to Gladwell: Social media helps activism, and here’s how [Web blog]. Retrieved from http://gigaom.com/2011/09/01/memo-to-gladwell-social-media-helps-activism-and-heres-how/

KZero Worldwide. (2010). Kids, tweens and teens in virtual worlds [Slideshare]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/nicmitham/kids-tweens-and-teens-in-virtual-worlds-2091502

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